It’s that time again on a Friday when Update At Noon’s Sakina Kamwendo hosts another Update From The Coal-Face with Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly.
Sakina Kamwendo: South Africa has developed a new platinum processing system that can save a massive amount of scarce electricity.
Martin Creamer: Yes, this is called Kell technology and it’s been 21 years in the making. It’s poised to take over from a 100-year old technology, which is really smelting that uses up an excessive amount of electricity and pollutes the air.
This will be hydrometallurgy versus pyrometallurgy, and it will do so much more on site. Besides producing concentrate, it will also refine the PGM metals and the base metals on site, and save the cobalt, which is normally burnt off. It will mean a massive replacement, and it will only use a fraction of the electricity currently used by the electricity-intensive smelters. If the whole of the platinum industry adopts this, it will mean that electricity equal to the size of the huge Medupi power station will no longer be used by the platinum metals industry and will be available for feeding into the national grid for the rest of South Africa to enjoy.
It is such an important development, particularly with climate change now, because it lowers carbon footprint significantly and the technology has really been finetuned over many years, and the place where it will probably be first developed will be the Sedibelo Platinum Mines, in North West province.
Sakina Kamwendo: South Africa is on the cusp of finalising a new tax incentive to boost crucial mining exploration.
Martin Creamer: After the Second World War in Canada, in 1958, the Canadians realised that their mining industry was going nowhere so they introduced a flow-through shares scheme that boosted exploration and mining in Canada. To this day, it is still doing so, and now South Africans have grasped this and are saying that, ‘in 2020, South African mining is going nowhere, and we have no exploration and we haven’t had exploration for 35-years. Can we look at what the Canadians did and see if we can implement it here?’
And four of the top big companies in legal tax and accounting put their heads together with Minerals Council South Africa, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) and also the South African Revenue Services (SARS) and National Treasury, and they’ve come up with something that they believe is tailor-made for South Africa, and can stimulate the exploration we so urgently need by giving incentives to explorers by way of a flow-through shares scheme.
It will all be private-sector money that’s involved, and will be nothing that’s from the State, but there will be a situation where someone with sums that would be taxed, can in concert with SARS invest into exploration activity. It’s a really good scheme that could change the face of mining in South Africa.
Sakina Kamwendo: Sumitomo this week invested in an initiative that will drive demand for South Africa’s platinum. Please tell us more.
Martin Creamer: Yes, Sumitomo is a massive Japanese company in 66 countries, and it’s seen fit to enter into an agreement with AP Ventures, a company that promotes the use of platinum-group metals (PGMs).
Now, where you see the AP, see it as an acronym for Anglo American Platinum, which is involved along with a number of other huge AP Ventures investors. One of the most notable entities, of course, is South Africa’s Public Investment Corporation, the PIC, which is a cornerstone investors.
There’s also Mitsubishi of Japan, already in there, as is the Toyota-linked Mirai Fund and several other investors.
Sumitomo, which is doing a lot in the hydrogen economy, is very excited about getting into AP Ventures, which is London-based and has now opened offices in South Africa as well.
The idea is to drive new technologies that will make use of platinum and in doing that, it will stimulate activities in our platinum mines, and in doing that, it will keep the tens of thousands of people employed in the platinum mines in jobs for much longer and take them all into a far longer horizon with the hydrogen economy.
Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly. He’ll be back At The Coal-Face at the same time next Friday.